No Republican Regrets

“Non, je ne regrette rien” – that’s the famous French song of defiance – the song the guys from the French Foreign Legion now sing on parade. Regret nothing. You did what you did, or said what you said, and regrets are for cowards. Edith Piaf offered her version of that song in 1960 – it was soon an enormous international hit – and dedicated that recording to the French Foreign Legion, after more than a few of them had unsuccessfully tried to get rid of Charles de Gaulle during the Algerian Civil War, where the French government had been doing some pretty nasty things, for no good reason. Colonialism can be a bitch, and things had been no better for the French in Vietnam, which was French Indochina until, in 1954, it wasn’t anymore – but the song was really a love song, of sorts. There was nothing political about it. The woman, rejected by her lover, refuses to play the victim or take any blame for the split. She has no regrets. She’ll hold her head up high, which might remind you of Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 smash hit I Will Survive – but it’s more subtle than the angry woman defiantly telling the useless man that he didn’t crush her noble soul at all. That’s an American attitude. In the French hit song the woman pretty much concedes that she’d been a bit of a demanding bitch, but these things happen, and she’s not changing. If offered a second chance she’d do nothing different, and if that means losing her one true love, so be it. Never regret true passion. If others can’t deal with it, well, that’s their problem.

That sort of attitude, and thus that Piaf song, has been useful to at least one conservative politician and others who like to think that passion is more important than compromise or even making sense – but American conservatives have reviled the French ever since the French Foreign Minister, Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin, suggested at the United Nations, way back in 2003, that war with Iraq really didn’t make a whole lot of sense – and was right, damn it. American conservatives would never think of referencing a damned French song, but oddly enough, they’re singing this one all the time. They’re passionate about their beliefs. If others can’t deal with those beliefs, well, that’s their problem.

This presents a problem for American conservatives. In politics, you can’t be the passionate demanding bitch that will never change, take it or leave it. That’s the reason for this:

Support for the tea party has dropped significantly since the conservative activist movement first began making waves in 2010, according to a new poll from Gallup.

Twenty-two percent of adults identify themselves as supporters of the tea party in this latest survey, down from 32 percent in November 2010, shortly after Republicans rode a wave of tea party energy to claim a strong victory in congressional elections that year.

Among Republicans, 41 percent now describe themselves as tea party supporters, but that figure was 61 percent in 2010. Democrats continue to hold the movement in low regard, with only 7 percent describing themselves as tea party supporters.

Yes, they proudly regret nothing, and they still want their country back, but when their Republican support suddenly drops twenty points, into minority support, their lover has walked out the door. The passionate outbursts, once so exciting, became tiresome. Gentlemen, try dating a Frenchwoman. You’ll understand, and this is the political equivalent of that constant high drama. In politics too, that cannot be sustained. That gets old real fast, and in politics the trick is to moderate your views, or to tone them down a bit, or to actually adjust your positions – but also to say that you have no regrets for any of that stuff. Admit that you have regrets and you lose the votes of your passionate base.

That’s hard to pull off and leads to all sorts of trouble:

You know who else called people “haters”?

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) does, so he took to the House floor on Friday afternoon to offer a Third Reich comparison that was bizarre even for Third Reich comparisons.

So, who resembles the Nazis now? It’s the gay rights advocates, of course.

Okay, fine, you want your country back, the one where no one was gay, or if they were, they rightly stayed in their closets, but then you have to say that Christians really “love homosexuals” – a bit of moderation there – while it’s high time that the persecution of gay marriage opponents ends, according to Gohmert:

It is amazing that in the name of liberality, in the name of being tolerant, this fascist intolerance has arisen. People that stand up and say, you know, I agree with the majority of Americans, I agree with Moses and Jesus that marriage was a man and a woman, now all of a sudden, people like me are considered haters, hate mongers, evil, which really is exactly what we’ve seen throughout our history as going back to the days of the Nazi takeover in Europe. What did they do? First, they would call people “haters” and “evil” and build up disdain for those people who held those opinions or religious views or religious heritage. And then the next came, well, those people are so evil and hateful, let’s bring every book that they’ve written or has to do with them and let’s start burning the books, because we can’t tolerate their intolerance.

In short, if you don’t tolerate intolerance, then you’re the one who’s intolerant – you’re the one who’s a hater, a Nazi, in fact. Next you’ll be burning books, even Bibles.

That’s an odd adjustment, and Ed Kilgore offers this:

This is an old habit in the Christian Right, and an ideal way to turn the tables and pose as conscience-wracked Here-I-Stand dissenters against power instead of defenders of patriarchy and privilege, and with them the enormous power of the status quo ante (or what Chesterton once called “the democracy of the dead”), a power that’s ruled daily life for millennia. Standing up for “your principles” is a lot more attractive than standing up for the day-before-yesterday and oppressing anyone who gets uppity – so of course you want to go there again and again, and if you are Louie Gohmert, why not? Nobody but those guilty of “fascist intolerance” will object.

This is however, a way to say you have no regrets for your position. Maybe you should have a few regrets, or maybe you shouldn’t – reasonable people can disagree on this matter, even if you’re intensely passionate about making sure Bruce and Sven can never get married to each other – but it’s absurd, and morally vile, that everyone wants to shut you up. They’re the real “haters” out there.

Does that make sense? If this were a “relationship” you’d walk away, or run for the hills. That might explain the Gallup poll. That’s happening, but then adjustments, necessary in any relationship, can be quite difficult. Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers SuperPAC, is trying to figure out what when wrong for them in 2012 – Obama won, again – and Politico’s Kenneth Vogel got his hands on an internal strategy memo that outlines what adjustments they feel they have to make:

To remedy the messaging disadvantage, AFP developed “a sophisticated new media message-testing strategy to target specific demographics in specific locations we need to move on our issues,” according to the memo… “If the presidential election told us anything, it’s that Americans place a great importance on taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak,” reads the AFP memo

Who knew? That’s quite odd, but they will make adjustments:

“We consistently see that Americans in general are concerned that free-market policy – and its advocates – benefit the rich and powerful more than the most vulnerable of society. We must correct this misconception.”

How are they going to do that? Kevin Drum isn’t sure they can:

And what better way to correct this misconception than to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from America’s crankiest right-wing billionaires in order to fund the election of people dedicated to slashing every possible program that protects the weak and takes care of those in need? It’s hard to understand why America’s poor and working class are so obstinately misguided about what America’s moneyed class really wants.

They may not even know what America’s moneyed class really wants:

In one of the first surveys of its kind, a CNBC poll has revealed that 51% of millionaires in America believe that inequality is “a major problem”, and nearly two-thirds advocate being taxed at a higher rate. The CNBC Millionaire Survey polled 514 Americans with investable assets of $1 million or more, which is representative of the top 8% of American households. Respondents represented Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

A range of views were expressed, some of them largely in keeping with traditional views. However the headline statistic was that a massive 64% of America millionaires openly say that they should be taxed at a higher rate to help reduce inequality. Almost the same number, 63%, supports a higher minimum wage.

This is enough to drive the Koch brothers crazy, but the devil is in the details:

Many of the views expressed in the survey were not surprising. For example, when asked to explain the reason for their success, 23% said hard work, 21% said “smart investment” and 18% said saving wisely. Only 10% ranked education as important, and just 1% said “luck” had anything to do with it. Multimillionaires (those worth $5 million or more) ranked “running my own business” as the main reason for their wealth.

In terms of the gender split, women were three times more likely to rank inheritance as the main reason for their wealth, with 15% ranking it as important compared to just 5% of male respondents. Men ranked saving as more important than women, with 20% ranking it as important, compared to 14% of women.

David Atkin tries to untangle this:

Now, it’s entirely possible that the top tenth of one percent are the ones with the most selfish views. It’s hard to know.

But it’s important to remember that while it’s accurate to say that the 1% has hoovered up and is hoarding all the wealth, it’s not even a majority of them that are the direct villains of our political story.

It’s less than a third of the top one percent. They’re the ones causing almost all the problems.

Adjustments could be made, but only for them, as they’re the ones who pour their hundreds of millions into conservative politics. Don’t expect an adjustment, even if there’s this:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Thursday morning said he supports an increase in the minimum wage, breaking with many Republicans who have stood against it… Romney’s comments come after Senate Republicans rejected a vote on a Senate bill that would have increased the minimum wage to $10.10. Recently, though, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, both of whom also ran for the Republican nomination in 2012, said they supported some increase in the minimum wage.

Who controls the Senate Republicans? That would be those who financed the election of those senators who will vote the right way, that third of the top one percent, which doesn’t quite include Romney, and certainly doesn’t include Pawlenty and Santorum. It hardly matters what those three say, or what the Pope says:

Pope Francis called Friday for governments to redistribute wealth to the poor in a new spirit of generosity to help curb the “economy of exclusion” that is taking hold today.

Francis made the appeal during a speech to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of major U.N. agencies who are meeting in Rome this week.

Latin America’s first pope has frequently lashed out at the injustices of capitalism and the global economic system that excludes so much of humanity.

On Friday, Francis called for the United Nations to promote a “worldwide ethical mobilization” of solidarity with the poor in a new spirit of generosity.

He said a more equal form of economic progress can be had through “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.”

It seems conservative American Catholics will just have to become Wiccans. They’ve lost the Pope, but sometimes, as unlikely as it seems, ethics can play a part in conservative politics:

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky broke Friday with fellow Republicans who have pushed for stricter voting laws as a way to crack down on fraud at the polls, saying that the focus on such measures alienates and insults African-Americans and hurts the party.

“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Mr. Paul said in an interview. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”

Who knew? But while in Memphis for a Republican National Committee meeting, Paul met with a group of black pastors, he did get religion:

Mr. Paul becomes the most prominent member of his party – and among the very few – to distance himself from the voting restrictions and the campaign for their passage in states under Republican control, including North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, that can determine presidential elections. Civil rights groups call the laws a transparent effort to depress black turnout.

Speaking here in a mostly black and Democratic city with its own painful history of racism, Mr. Paul said that much of the debate over voting rights had been swept up in the tempest of racial politics.

The senator has had his own struggles with civil rights issues, hedging at times on his support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, notably, he did not on Friday denounce voter ID laws as bad policy or take back previous statements in which he had said it was not unreasonable for voters to be required to show identification at the polls. He says these laws should be left to the states. (Kentucky does not have a restrictive voter identification statute.)

Instead, in his comments, he suggested that Republicans had been somewhat tone deaf on the issue.

That’s admitting regrets! Danger ahead! But he’s making adjustments, even if carefully:

After his meeting with the pastors in Memphis, Mr. Paul traveled a few blocks to address the Republican gathering, but he made no mention of voting rights. Instead, he hit on the message that the party needed to soften its edges and show more sympathy to populations that have felt overlooked and maligned by Republicans.

Yes, one must not go too far, but the whole thing is tricky:

Some Democrats were not impressed by Mr. Paul’s efforts at outreach. G. A. Hardaway, a member of the Tennessee General Assembly, published a letter on Friday that called out Mr. Paul for his past statements on the Civil Rights Act and for saying that he did not think it was unreasonable to ask voters to produce drivers’ licenses.

“Get real, Senator,” Mr. Hardaway said. “To come here, to Memphis of all places, and espouse the principles and ‘goodness’ of today’s Republican Party,” he added. “Excuse me if I’m not buying it.”

Ed Kilgore sees why:

I hope this position sticks, because it’s not going to be very popular in the conservative fever swamps where Paul will be spending time if he does run for president.

But I have another hint for Paul that he might want to verify with the next group of African-Americans he meets with, and then pass along to his fellow-Republicans: impeaching the first African-American president is a sure-fire way to ensure Republicans struggle to make it to double digits in the percentage of black voters they attract for the foreseeable future. Yes, it would thrill “the base,” and close it right on up in its own echo chamber.

Bet on it.

Yes, the possibility of impeachment is in the air – even without grounds for impeachment talk of it mobilizes the base. The midterm elections are coming, and John McCarthy at Balloon Juice is quite blunt about Paul’s voter-ID change of heart:

That’s the whole fucking point of these laws. To alienate minorities and the poor, to depress them, to keep the boot on their necks to satisfy your Galtian voter base, and to keep them out of the poll booth, because Republicans know they are trying to sell them a shit sandwich. For fuck’s sake, Rand!

That might be the reaction in Rand Paul’s party, if they’d dare say that sort of thing out loud – if it was no regrets, all the time – but they’ve made the necessary adjustments. This is all about the integrity of the vote, and the Pope is a Republican who listens to Rush Limbaugh all day. It’s a joke, but Republicans don’t do that regret thing.

Sometimes you just go Full Gohmert:

Charles Krauthammer believes climate change is a mere superstition, just like the “rain dance of Native Americans.”

Appearing Tuesday on Fox News’ “Special Report,” the conservative pundit rejected the consensus of between 97 and 98 percent of scientists who believe climate change is real and is fueled by human activity.

“It’s always a result of what is ultimately what we’re talking about here, human sin with pollution of carbon,” Krauthammer said. “It’s the oldest superstition around. It was in the Old Testament, it’s in the rain dance of Native Americans — if you sin, the skies will not cooperate.”

Krauthammer further shed doubt on the White House’s newly released climate change assessment by arguing that climate science is too unstable to predict weekend weather forecasts, let alone global trends several decades out.

“Ninety-nine percent of physicists were convinced that space and time are fixed, until Einstein working in a patent office wrote a paper in which he showed that they are not,” he said. “I’m not impressed by numbers; I’m not impressed by consensus.”

This man has no regrets, and Andrew Sullivan has a problem with that:

I have to say that one of the most depressing features of the decline of conservative thinking in the US has been the resistance to the overwhelming data behind carbon and climate change. I don’t get it, however much I try… It’s deeply dispiriting. And it helps explain why the GOP is such an extreme outlier among right-of-center parties in the Western world on this issue.

There is an obvious role for conservatism here at every stage. I favor maximal skepticism toward scientific theories that might prompt us to change our lives and societies in radical ways. If there were any use for a conservatism of doubt, it would be to counter such over-reach. The calls for skepticism in this field are absolutely legitimate, given the scale of the consequences. I also favor maximal skepticism in figuring out the best way to deal with such change – a debate well worth having, but which has languished because the US right won’t even agree to the premise.

But the truth is: on this question, scientific skepticism has been abundant, while the data on the core reality continues to mount. In many ways, the skeptics have garnered more media attention than the climate-change consensus-mongers. And of course there’s always a chance that we’ll stumble upon some new evidence or theory that would throw this entire edifice into doubt (it happens). And it would be awesome. But, at this point, the overwhelming scientific consensus is clear enough and the argument behind it powerful. The world’s climate is changing; and it will mean huge challenges for humanity’s habitat. I simply cannot see why any sane person would not wish to try and mitigate that change or prepare for such an eventuality. It’s not about ideology so much as simple prudence. Even if you view the likelihood of a much warmer planet as small, its huge potential impact still makes it worth confronting. Low-probability-high-impact events are like that. And conservatives, properly understood, attend to such contingent problems prudently; only ideologues or fools decide it would be better to do nothing and hope for the best.

More to the point, the efforts to counter climate change are mainly win-win. If solar power could run the planet, wouldn’t that be great?

Sullivan doesn’t get the “no regrets” problem here. One must have no regrets for previous thinking and behavior. On the other hand, Edith Piaf was by all accounts an irritating and demanding and quite unstable little woman, perhaps quite mad, or at least quite troubled, and by all accounts a real pain in the ass with her intense passion about every damned thing, with a great voice. If so, Republicans should get over their hatred of all things French and embrace her. They’re there already.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to No Republican Regrets

  1. Rick says:

    [Fox’s Charles] Krauthammer further shed doubt on the White House’s newly released climate change assessment by arguing that climate science is too unstable to predict weekend weather forecasts, let alone global trends several decades out. “Ninety-nine percent of physicists were convinced that space and time are fixed, until Einstein working in a patent office wrote a paper in which he showed that they are not,” he said. “I’m not impressed by numbers; I’m not impressed by consensus.”

    Krauthammer does realize, I hope, that Climate Scientists don’t predict the weather, that Meteorologists do?

    It’s similar to the common conservative confusion between Businessmen and Economists, which assumes that someone who made himself rich by borrowing money to take over and shut down companies must know how to fix a weak economy. They’re completely different skill sets.

    And I’d also guess that he realizes that the majority of physicists now do agree with Einstein about the relationship of space and time? And so, just on his apparent belief that crowds are usually wrong, does he disagree with that consensus that now agrees with Einstein, too?

    Who can say for sure that, someday, all these conservatives who are so convinced that all these scientists who say they believe earth’s climate is being warmed up by human life, are actually Marxists sucking on the teat of a big government that is hellbent on destroying the American economy, won’t be proven right? After all, not being a scientist, I just have to make a judgement call on who’s word to take on this, and so when it comes to deciding whether or not to take the word of conservatives, I tend to decline, based on a history that includes conservatives arguing that God intended white people to own black people, and to later treat them as inferiors, and that cutting spending in an economy makes it grow. Stuff like that.

    Somehow I can’t help but suspect that the conservatives who argue that Climate Scientists have some political axe to grind, have some political axe to grind. I can’t help but suspect that they really don’t know or care whether we’re warming the planet up and making the planet that much more unlivable, all they care about is that doing what we have to do to make sure power plants that use fossil fuels don’t pollute the environment, will cost just too much money, making American business “uncompetitive”, and weakening the economy.

    Even though, by the way, the exact opposite is probably true. Not only would spending money to make power plants less harmful make the planet healthier, it would help strengthen our economy by creating jobs for those who would be doing the cleanup, and jobs is something we need right now.

    As I say, when it comes to understanding how the world really works, it’s the conservatives who are the witch doctors doing the rain dances.


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